You’ve probably seen retailers ask if you want to save your credit card information when shopping online. While the rationale is that doing so is convenient for you, it also creates a sticky situation that benefits the merchant by encouraging you to return for future purchases.
While you should be able to choose whether or not to save your credit card information with a specific merchant, you may not be able to opt out of the situation.
Reader Juanita, for example, recently shared, “A local sports facility offers summer classes for kids.” Weekly sessions can be purchased separately, and each time a person signs up for a session, they must register. They only accept credit card payments, and despite the fact that their payment form powered by EZ Facility allows you to uncheck the statement ‘I authorize Longplex LLC to store my credit card information for future payments,’ this option is not available.”
Juanita, understandably, wanted to know if this behavior was legal. Here’s what she should know.
How to Remove Credit Card Information from a Website
Before you can make a purchase, many merchants will require you to create an account and provide personal information, including your credit card information. Some websites, however, will allow you to check out as a guest, allowing you to avoid storing your personal information on the site.
If you are concerned about the security of your credit card information and do not have the option of checking out as a guest, you can complete your purchase and then remove your credit card information from the website. You should be able to do so by logging in to your account and looking up your payment information. You should be able to remove or delete the card information you provided earlier for your transaction from there.
Unwanted patterns limit consumer choice
While this procedure appears straightforward, be aware that some merchants purposefully make it difficult for you to use this option effectively.
One method they employ is to design their websites with dark patterns that subvert your choices. According to the Federal Trade Commission, dark patterns, for example, include design elements such as:
- Do not allow consumers to “definitely reject” data collection or use.
- Continuously lead customers to settings they dislike and want to avoid.
- Use perplexing settings that lead customers to make privacy decisions they did not intend to make.
- Highlight options that allow for more data collection while “graying out” options that allow customers to avoid this.
- Intentionally obscure and make difficult to find privacy options
- Use default settings that are optimized for data collection and storage.
What if you can’t opt out of having your information stored on a website?
In Juanita’s case, if a website doesn’t allow you to opt out of storing your credit card information — because she can’t uncheck the option to store the information — that appears to be a dark patterns design element.
In addition to the FTC, various state authorities have been cracking down on dark patterns designed to sway consumer decisions. The California Consumer Privacy Act, the Colorado Privacy Act, and similar legislation in Connecticut, for example, address the use of online dark patterns.
If Juanita wants to opt out of having a website store her credit card information but is unable to do so, she should first try to resolve the issue with the merchant. If that doesn’t work, she could take the matter up with the proper authorities.
She could, for example, file a report with the FTC. She could file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has expressed concern about businesses using dark patterns to manipulate customers. She could also seek advice from her state attorney general.
Although retailer websites want to keep your credit card information to increase the likelihood that you’ll shop with them again in the future, you should be able to check out as a guest if you don’t want your personal information stored. If that is not an option, you can try to complete your transaction and then remove your credit card information from the website.
If a website is designed so that you cannot decline the storage of your credit card information, it appears that you are being manipulated. If you are unable to resolve the situation with the merchant, you should consider filing a complaint with the appropriate authorities.
- Retail websites frequently request your credit card information in order to complete a transaction, and they’d like to be able to store that information in the future.
- If you aren’t comfortable storing your credit card information on a website, you should be able to check out as a guest or remove your payment information after checking out.
- Sometimes, websites are designed to manipulate consumer choices — if there is no way to opt out of having your information stored, you could file a complaint with the FTC or other authorities.